David Rodeback's Blog

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006
My Precinct's Caucus and My Party's Platform

I wasn't particularly pleased with either. The caucus was poorly attended and the platform is poorly written, whatever one may think of its political content. Do I expect too much?

I live in Precinct 5 in American Fork (AF05, as the official maps call it). So do about 300 other registered Republicans. This means that attendance at my precinct caucus last evening was less than three percent. Two years ago it was at least twice that -- not that I have much room to talk. This was only my second caucus in an otherwise rather politicized life.

Other Republican precincts which met last evening at American Fork High School appear to have similarly indifferent members, except for AF07, which had a larger crowd. So kudos to AF07. You know who you are.

I went to my caucus hoping to get myself elected as a county delegate. In the end, they made me precinct vice chair, which makes me also a delegate to the county convention, so I guess it was a successful effort.

I was asked to read the entire Utah County Republican Party Platform aloud at last evening's caucus, so I paid it more detailed attention than I ever paid it before. It's almost two pages of fine print. As it turned out, reading it required real effort -- to keep a straight face and to avoid a sarcastic tone, that is.

In principle I mostly agree with it, which doesn't surprise me, since I'm both Republican and conservative. But after reading it carefully -- aloud -- I am also a little vexed and a little embarrassed.

I understand that the platform is the product of compromise, so it is likely to be murky or incoherent in some ways. I understand that much of it addresses principles which are rooted in religious beliefs and therefore arouse much pious passion (or is that passionate piety?). I'm actually okay with that, even when I don't fully agree with the politics -- even when I don't think those deeply-held religious beliefs reflect the real doctrines of the churches and scriptures in which people claim to find them. No matter. I don't expect my party to agree with me on every point.

Here's my first real objection: One gets the impression from the platform that the reverse isn't quite true: they do expect me to conform to them on every point. I'd like my party to be more inclusive than that, less supremely confident of its own divine omniscience and more suited to building consensus to address real problems in realistic ways. Along the way, it should reach out to like-minded folks who don't happen to agree on every point.

Here's my second. Utah County has the most educated population in the state. Why can its Republicans not produce a well-written platform? Besides the liberal sprinkling of bad diction, bad punctuation, bad grammar, and so forth, there is a problem on a larger scale. It seems to be, in some cases, a collection of high-sounding phrases which never received a moment's scrutiny for logic and coherence. (I know, it's politics! But I expect better than this.)

Example: "Ours is a sovereign nation governed solely by the Constitution of the United States" (my emphasis).

This is mostly true in one sense, I guess, but besides the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, I think we have a US Code, some treaties, a voluminous tax code, and other things which govern us. I applaud zeal for the US Constitution, but it doesn't have to be expressed stupidly. How about this: "Ours is a sovereign, constitutional nation. All other laws and institutions are subordinate to the supreme law of the land, the United States Constitution."

Example: "Limited government dictates that taxpayers should keep the majority of their money instead of giving it to government."

So a total tax burden of 49.9% of my income would be okay with my party? After all, 50.1% is a majority of my income. As to language . . . "limited government" itself doesn't dictate anything. "The principle of limited goverment," or perhaps "a commitment to limited government," might suggest or require something. And "giving" is much too voluntary a verb to suit my taxes. How about something like this: "To minimize the power and invasiveness of government and the impact on hard-working citizens, the total tax burden imposed by all levels of government combined should not exceed twenty percent of any citizen's or household's income." (If you don't like my number, pick a different one, but make it a lot less than 50.)

Example: "Victim's rights are always superior to criminals' rights."

I understand and share the sentiment -- to a point. But there is danger in supposing that someone's rights always trump someone else's, or that the least application of one right always trumps the most fundamental application of another right. What if we collectively decide burglary victims have the right to see the burglars' hands cut off? How does that stack up to the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment? If we posit a victim's right to restitution, does that extend as far as depriving the convicted criminal of the medication he needs to survive, and giving its cost to the victim, if the criminal cannot make full restitution otherwise? Does a rape victim's right to peace and recovery trump the accused perpetrator's constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him at trial? Does my right to pursue happiness absolve me of the need to serve on a jury, even at the expense of the accused person's constitutional right to a jury trial? Perhaps we might more reasonably say, "Victims' rights generally deserve greater deference than criminals' rights."

Perhaps I expect too much of local politics.

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